Why do gaming keyboards light up

Here's what you need to consider when buying a gaming keyboard

By Adrian M├╝hlroth | July 09, 2018, 12:20 p.m.

A good gaming PC also needs a decent gaming keyboard. TECHBOOK has summarized for you what is important and what you need to know before buying.

While conventional keyboards are primarily designed for typing, gaming keyboards have to meet a number of additional requirements in order to meet the demands of gamers - from the type of keys to additional functions.

Here you can find the keyboard that suits you best

Choosing the right buttons

"Real" gaming keyboards are usually mechanical. This means that each key has a so-called "switch" in which a spring sits, the strength of which determines the force required to trigger the key press. Depending on which switches you use, mechanical keys provide better tactile and acoustic feedback, i.e. you can feel a clear threshold when you press it and hear a key click.

Cherry keyboards paved the way

Most keyboards use the MX mechanisms from the German manufacturer Cherry, which are sorted by color. Each color stands for a very specific key profile, so that the required release force, tactile and acoustic feedback vary. Cherry MX Brown Switches, for example, have a low trigger threshold and clear tactile feedback, the Blue Switches have a similar threshold as well as tactile and acoustic feedback, while Black Switches have a high trigger threshold but are linear, i.e. they do not provide any feedback. There are a number of other switches that are more or less common.

The different switch variants are important for gaming keyboards because there are games that benefit from a very specific key profile. For example, for games such as first-person shooters, in which pressing a wrong key can cost one's virtual life, Black Switches are better suited due to their higher resistance up to the triggering of a key. In games in which you react quickly and only have to press buttons briefly, Red Switches with their low resistance are more suitable. If you also want to hear when the button is pressed, you can use Brown Switches or even Blue Switches, which also provide acoustic feedback.

Alternatives to the MX switches from Cherry

Due to the age of the Cherry MX switches, some manufacturers have started developing their own switches. The most prominent example are the Romer-G switches from Logitech, which are supposed to eliminate the greatest shortcomings of the Cherry MX switches. The switches are said to be better suited for fast gaming thanks to the shorter key travel and higher responsiveness and have a design optimized for RGB lighting. Unlike the Cherry MX switches, which also let light through below, a light tunnel in the middle of the Romer-G switches ensures that the light only reaches the key surface and illuminates it evenly. In addition, the switches have been tested for 70 million hits and have been shown to still work after 90 million hits. For comparison: Cherry MX switches were tested for (only) 50 million keystrokes.

In addition to the mechanical switches, there are also simple "rubber dome" buttons that use a plastic bell to register when the button is pressed. Rubber domes are often found in inexpensive keyboards, but have the disadvantage that they have a very imprecise pressure point and have to be pressed down completely for input. You can therefore not write as fast as with mechanical switches, since these only have to be pressed to the trigger point. To stabilize the keys, these rubber dome keyboards often have a scissor mechanism in which two hinges interlock like an "X". The scissor mechanism enables a flatter design and is therefore particularly common in laptop keyboards, but also in some very flat desktop models such as the Apple Mac keyboards.

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Pay attention to special gaming functions

Gaming keyboards often have keys with backlighting, which not only increase visibility in the dark, but can also provide orientation on the keypad. Some models have RGB lighting for freely selectable colors and also various lighting zones that can be set differently. For example, a different color than the rest of the keyboard can be selected for the directional or WASD keys or other keys that are particularly frequently used for a particular game.

With mechanical keyboards, the keys themselves can also be personalized. The key caps are simply put on the switches like Lego bricks and can be removed with a pliers-like tool. So you can choose keys with a different color, mold or texture for your personal gaming keyboard. Some non-mechanical keyboards also have this function, but often only for the WASD and some number keys.

In addition to the standard keypad, many keyboards also have so-called macro keys, which are freely programmable and can be adapted to specific game functions. A few gaming keyboards also have touchscreen displays or special displays for statistics or the like.

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Gaming keyboards are often used with features like N-Key rollover and anti-ghosting advertised. While with conventional keyboards the keys are connected in series and incorrect entries can occur if several keys are pressed at the same time, with keyboards withN-Key rollover scanned each key individually. Alternatively, there are also models with 10-key rollover, in which up to ten keys can be pressed simultaneously without causing incorrect entries. Ghosting is actually no longer a problem with modern keyboards, but anti-ghosting is still often advertised in the gaming sector. Ghosting occurred on older keyboards with combinations of three keys such as the CTRL-ALT-DEL handle and led to an additional fourth key entry being incorrectly registered.

The TECHBOOK recommendations

HyperX Alloy Elite

+ good price / performance ratio

+ additional keycaps

- only red backlight

- no programmable buttons

The HyperX Alloy Elite convinces with high processing quality thanks to the steel frame and a very affordable price for a keyboard with this equipment package. The device has a removable palm rest and a prominent light strip above the function keys. In addition to dedicated multimedia keys and keys for the brightness of the lighting, lighting effects and gaming mode, there is also a USB through port in the keyboard, to which a USB stick or gaming mouse, for example, can be connected. For a well-rounded gaming experience, the manufacturer also includes titanium-colored keycaps with a corrugated texture for the WASD and number keys from 1 to 4 as well as a removal tool. The keyboard supports anti-ghosting and N-key rollover and is available with Cherry MX Red, Blue or Brown switches.

Logitech G513

+ Optimal gaming and frequent typing keys

+ very even and bright lighting

- high price

- no macro buttons

The rather expensive Logitech G513 has the excellent Romer-G switches, which Logitech developed especially for gamers and frequent typists. Unlike Cherry MX switches, which are suitable for either gaming or writing, the Romer-G competitors can do both really well. The lighting of each individual key can be personalized and used for special lighting effects in games. In addition, thanks to the completely translucent buttons, the backlight literally shines on the user. The keyboard comes with a removable memory foam palm rest. The already impeccable workmanship is rounded off by the keycaps with surfaces made of brushed metal, on which no fingerprints remain.

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Razer Cynosa Chroma

+ good RGB backlighting

+ splash-proof

+ low price

- very soft keys

We recommend the Razer Cynosa Chroma because it is not only cheaper than the competition, but also offers a very practical extra. Thanks to built-in drainage channels, the keyboard can get wet without anything happening to the technology inside. But the device also has a number of other practical functions. In addition to a few predefined light effects, the RGB lighting can be individually defined. Anti-ghosting and at least 10-key rollover are also on board. The disadvantage of the keyboard is the keys, which are very soft due to the rubber dome switches. They lack the tactile feedback of more expensive mechanical keyboards, but if you don't mind, the Razer Cynosa Chroma is a solid gaming keyboard.

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